Fortunately, most kids don’t mind a little chaos with their Christmas.
When gifts, Santa Claus, treats and games are involved, who’s to complain?
“We try to anticipate having enough gifts for 250 to 300 kids, and we’ve never run out,” Liz Sherwin said as she dodged incoming and outgoing families in her offices at the Illinois/Iowa Center for Independent Living in Rock Island. “We buy the gifts through membership donations and through our Birdies for Charity donations.”
Saturday was the 13th annual Holiday Carnival for Children with Disabilities (and their siblings), and the turnout was testing the seams of the center’s offices, where Sherwin is executive director.
Greeting the non-stop flow of families in her reindeer antlers, Kim Armstrong, a dean at Black Hawk College, Moline, offered the first taste of holiday enthusiasm.
“It’s Christmas!” she reminded the children who waited in line. “You’re gonna have a great time!”
And Armstrong should know.
“Our volunteers from Black Hawk have been coming here for 10 years,” she said. “You don’t know it’s Christmas until you come to this one.”
Asked about the crush of kids, excitedly moving from one small office to another, she said, “I have teenagers. This is much easier.
“In fact, one of my kids is coming. She’s been volunteering for eight years.”
Volunteers are critical to the event, which offers holiday-themed games, crafts, food and gifts in a half-dozen offices, where desks and shelves had been covered in wrapping paper.
“It’s so nice they do this for the kids,” said Tiesha Scott, whose three young sons were mesmerized by a holiday train set. “I’m from Chicago, and this is my first time here. I go to school, and that makes it hard to get your kids what they want. The gifts are very generous.”
Behind Scott, sitting on the floor of an office, two Augustana College students were collecting rubber balls the carnival guests were tossing through cutouts in a wooden snowman.
“I like to volunteer,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, a junior from Oswego, Ill. “I think it’s good to give back to the community, given that we are guests here.”
Kim Sawyer, of Batavia, Ill., also is studying communication sciences and disorders at Augie and said she heard about the volunteer opportunity in her oral rehabilitation class.
“It’s an opportunity to do something with deaf and disabled children,” she said. “The kids are having a good time, and I enjoy being with them.”